‘Desperate’ Samsung to offer software update for exploding Galaxy Note 7s

Alteration for those who have not heeded firm's recall is designed to stop batteries from overheating while charging by limiting recharges to less than 60 per cent.
Samsung has struggled to deal with a 2.5 million device recall of its flagship Galaxy Note 7 and has decided to issue a software update to prevent explosions of the device. Jeon Heon-kyun / EPA
Samsung has struggled to deal with a 2.5 million device recall of its flagship Galaxy Note 7 and has decided to issue a software update to prevent explosions of the device. Jeon Heon-kyun / EPA

Samsung plans to issue a software update for its recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in what analysts say is “a desperate measure” that will prevent them from overheating by limiting battery recharges to under 60 per cent.

The front page of the Seoul Shinmun, a South Korean daily newspaper, carries a Samsung advertisement announcing the software update plan for any users of the Note 7 who may be disregarding its recall notice and continuing to use the smartphone.

“It is a measure to put consumer safety first but we apologise for causing inconvenience,” Samsung Electronics said. The update for South Korean users will start at 2am on September 20, it said.

South Korean media earlier reported the software upgrade plan, citing Samsung. It was not clear when the update may roll out overseas. The Yonhap news agency reported that Samsung is in talks with mobile carriers to carry out the same update plan to keep battery power at 60 per cent or below at all times.

Samsung plans to begin issuing new Note 7s with batteries it says will not be prone to overheating beginning on September 19. It has recalled 2.5 million of the devices after dozens of cases of them exploding or catching fire. Samsung says the problem stems from a manufacturing glitch in the batteries.

The company has urged consumers to immediately turn off the phones and get them replaced with the new Note 7. But implementing such a large-scale recall is a challenge. Consumers have to visit Samsung service centers or retailers twice – once to get a replacement phone – not a Note 7 – and have a safety check of their existing Galaxy Note 7, and a second time to get a new Note 7. South Koreans are travelling for one of their two biggest national holidays of the year starting Wednesday, which complicates the recall plan.

Samsung did not answer requests seeking comment on Tuesday.

Analysts said the update appears to be a last-ditch effort to contain the crisis.

Samsung “has to contain the battery explosions but people are not returning the phone”, said Peter Yu, an analyst at BNP Paribas. “It is taking a desperate measure.”

Keeping the battery level low could reduce the risk of overheating, but would be equivalent to getting a downgrade of a top-of-the-line phone, said Kim Young Woo, an analyst at SK Securities. The Galaxy Note series is one of the most expensive handset lineup made by Samsung.

“It means that the phone has not been optimised before the release,” Mr Kim said.

Samsung is the world’s largest smartphone maker, and analysts said the recall may leave a larger impact on its brand than earlier estimated. Aviation regulators and airlines have deemed the Note 7 a flight hazard and the US consumer product safety commission is considering an official product recall.

Canada issued a recall notice on Monday.

The company did not say how many more faulty batteries in the Note 7 have been reported since September 1, when 35 cases were confirmed. In announcing its recall, the Canadian government said one case was confirmed in Canada while Samsung received more than 70 reported cases in the United States alone.

business@thenational.ae

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Published: September 13, 2016 04:00 AM

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